The planned launch of sports betting services in the state of Arizona on September 9th could face a major setback as legal action has been started by a Prescott-area tribe against the state.
In its lawsuit, filed a few days ago, the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe claims that the new piece of legislation that allowed gambling in Arizona violates Arizona’s Constitution. The tribe also claims that the rural tribes on the territory of the state have been forcibly made agree to the Governor’s Office terms.
Currently, the Yavapai and Bucky’s casinos are being operated by the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe, which has been one of two Native American tribes that did not agree to sign new gaming agreements with the state of Arizona earlier in 2021 as part of their negotiations with Governor Doug Ducey. Under the new compacts, tribes were allowed to expand their casino venues and add new table games, such as craps and baccarat, to their offerings in return for their support to House Bill 2772, which aims at allowing mobile sports betting services to be offered outside reservation land by tribes and professional sports teams.
The lawsuit states that the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe had not participated in the negotiations of this year’s Amended Compact, which had been presented to it as a non-negotiable agreement. According to the legal action started by the Native American nation, rural tribes had been excluded from important negotiations of the issue.
So far, the Governor’s Office refused to comment on the legal action or the claims that the compacts were not negotiated with rural tribes. A spokesman of the Department of Gaming also said no comment on the litigation would be made.
New Legal Action Seeks to Block Sports Betting Offering on Off-Reservation Lands
The sponsor of the controversial piece of legislation, Senator T.J. Shope, defended the law, saying it is fair and equitable. In a prepared statement issued after the lawsuit’s filing in court, Senator Shope said he expected any legal challenges to be quickly dismissed so that the state of Arizona could finally see the economic benefits associated with the Gaming Compact Amendment between the state and the local tribes.
The Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe lawsuit calls for the court to block the Department of Gaming from allowing sports betting services and issuing sportsbook licenses in the state. In its legal action, the local Indian Tribe claims that allowing sports betting services to be offered on off-reservation lands would harm the tribe by eliminating the exclusive rights it received under its 2003 Compact. Furthermore, the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe claims that offering sports betting outside reservation land would reduce some important revenue that the tribe has been receiving under the aforementioned exclusivity rights.
The legal action started by the local Indian Tribe says that the new sports betting law is unconstitutional because it breaches the tribal gaming laws that were approved with the Voter Proposition Act 202 in 2002.
For the time being, sports betting is making progress in Arizona despite the legal action against the state, with the local Department of Gaming expected to issue some sports betting licenses in the days to come. Mobile sportsbooks are set to be permitted to commence accepting players and setting up their accounts after that.
An emergency hearing on the lawsuit was scheduled for September 3rd.